Tennis Elbow: Treatment and Management

Tennis Elbow is an injury to the muscles that extend the wrist and fingers. The site of injury is typically the lateral epicondyle, the bony bump on the outside of the elbow where these muscles attach. Tennis elbow symptoms can be acute (new onset), subacute (lasting more than 6 weeks) or chronic (lasting more than three months). The onset of symptoms is often gradual rather than traumatic.

Tennis elbow symptoms may include:

  • pain when performing gripping tasks pain with resisted wrist/finger extension
  • pain when the muscles are stretched
  • tenderness directly over the bony epicondyle and/or tenderness over the muscles in the forearm
  • some people may also report neck stiffness and tenderness, or, pins and needles and numbness
  • most elbow movements are pain-free

What are the most common causes of tennis elbow?

  • repetitive hand movements, e.g. typing, sewing, knitting, carpentry
  • excessive gripping activities, e.g. tennis, squash, badminton
  • poor forearm muscle strength or tight muscles
  • poor technique (e.g. poor tennis shot)

What Causes Chronic Tennis Elbow?

Chronic tennis elbow is associated with degenerative changes in the muscle tissues located at the lateral epicondyle. Although for a long time this was thought to be related to inflammation from overuse, this is now known to be incorrect.

Who Suffers Tennis Elbow?

  • Tennis elbow is very common.
  • It is present in 40% of all tennis players (hence it’s name) and 15% of people working in repetitive manual trades
  • It can occur at any age, but is most common between the ages of 35 and 50.
  • Most common in dominant arm but can also occur in non-dominant arm
  • Affects men and women equally

How is tennis elbow diagnosed?

A thorough assessment by your doctor or physiotherapist is required to diagnosis and eliminate other diagnosis that can mimic symptoms. An ultrasound scan or MRI is recommended only if symptoms do not improve following treatment.

What is the treatment for tennis elbow?

Physiotherapy has been shown to be effective in the short and long-term management of tennis elbow. Treatment can include:

  • gentle mobilisation of your neck and elbow joints
  • elbow taping
  • soft tissue massage
  • acupuncture
  • muscle stretches and strengthening exercises
  • a tennis elbow brace may help some

Research has shown physiotherapy to be the most effective way of managing tennis elbow when compared to steroid injections or giving of advice alone. If you are experiencing symptoms call us on 9518 0722 to make an appointment or to ask to speak to a physiotherapist if you would like to ask further questions. 

Janette O’Toole

Janette O’Toole

Principle Physiotherapist
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